Paris. The city that’s inspired a million love poems, high-end fashion, and a certain je ne sais quoi lifestyle. It’s a place that rightly belongs at the top of any bucket list. Here are some Paris travel tips that will get you ready for your first vacation in the City of Lights.
When is the best time to go to Paris?
Late March through June and September through late October are regarded as the best months to visit Paris. Temperatures hover between 55-57 degrees in both March and April, and up to 64-70 degrees in May and June. As long as you don’t mind wearing a coat and gloves, you can enjoy the city just fine in spring. On the flip side of the year, temperatures hover between 60-68 degrees in fall.
What’s the best airport in Paris?
There are three major airports around Paris, though most flights to Paris land at Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG). Charles De Gaulle hosts the most international flights, and is located around 22 miles north of the city. Orly Airport (ORY) is closest to the city center at 12 miles south, though is on the smaller side and often used by European travelers or visitors flying in from New York. Tillé Airport (BVA) is the furthest from the city at 60 miles north, but hosts budget airlines if you’re willing to trade time for money.
Do you need to speak French when visiting Paris?
It’s important to show respect by learning a few basic French phrases before your trip. Automatically speaking in English is considered arrogant and rude. That said, many French people do know basic English. As long as you make that first attempt, they’ll often help you out. Here are some phrases to memorize before traveling to Paris for the first time.
- “bonjour” (hello)
- “pardon” (excuse me)
- “merci” (thank you)
- “parlez-vous anglais?” (do you speak English?)
- “je voudrais…” (may I please have…)
- “ou sont les toilettes” (where are the toilets)
- “désolé, je ne parle pas francais” (sorry, I don’t speak French)
Knowing these phrases–and a few others–will help you tremendously as you explore the city.
What are some tips for getting around Paris?
The train system around Paris is phenomenal and offers stops at all the major attractions around the city. Walking around town is also a top option. Several attractions are close together and the architecture alone is worth the stroll. A few interesting notes about Parisian train stations:
- It’s rare to find elevators or escalators to the top, which can be tricky for travelers with limited mobility or heavy luggage.
- There are often train attendants to help passengers during rush hour, if you need help finding the right train. Just remember to attempt a few phrases in French before launching into English.
- Directional signs tend to show arrows pointing down to indicate you’re on the right path versus American signs with arrows that point up to indicate you should go onward.
You may be surprised how easy it is to navigate Paris once you start exploring.
Is Paris expensive to visit?
Paris can be expensive or cheap, depending on your travel style. International flights can get pricey, though the ones from major cities like LA or New York can be dirt cheap. A weekend or week pass from the metro is higher than other destinations, but that’s all the transportation costs you’ll need for the trip. And yes, some hotels are pricey, but a well-located hotel in Paris puts you within walking distance of everything you want to see.
This pricing philosophy applies to food as well. High-end restaurants will cost you a pretty penny, while street cart food is legendary in quality and only costs a handful of euros. Finally, many museums are free the first Sunday of the month from October to March, and outdoor sites like the Wall of Love are always free.
Do you tip in Paris?
Tipping is much different in Paris than American cities. Tipping for regular service in America runs between 15-20%, which is seen as far too extravagant in France. Here’s a helpful guide for how much to tip:
- Waiters: one to two euros for a casual meal or 5-10% of the bill at a nice restaurant.
- Bartenders: one euro per four euros spent.
- Taxis: 5-10% tip for each ride.
- Bellhops: one to two euros for help with your bags.
- Hotel maids: one to two euros per day.
Remember to keep a few extra euros around for these tipping opportunities.
Are French people rude?
No. The French tend to be more reserved and direct than Americans, which can take travelers by surprise. They’re a lot like residents in major cities like Chicago, San Francisco, or LA; French folks aren’t overly friendly, but they will kindly assist you if you need help. They’re also very respectful, so you’ll hear “Pardon” immediately if someone accidentally bumps into you and there are far fewer instances of manspreading on trains.
What should you visit in Paris?
Paris is a gorgeous city with a ton to do, but it also operates at a slower pace. While you can cram tons of attractions into your day, a top Paris travel tip is to stick to a few highlights and take your time with each point of interest.
- Atelier Des Lumieres: You’ve never been to an art exhibit quite like this. This immersive experience projects elements of Van Gogh’s paintings on the walls and floors. Watch as colors blend and change, while figures move throughout the landscapes. Each painting “scene” has a different musical soundtrack. The highlight is “Starry Night.” The painting is projected on the walls and floors—making you feel like you’re standing in the middle of it.
- Eiffel Tower: Yeah, it really is that beautiful. The gold coppers are lovelier in person than you’ve ever seen in pictures. If you want to take in a dazzling view of the city, head to the top—there’s a champagne bar there that will give you a view to remember.
- Pere Lachaise Cemetery: Are you a writer or creative type? You might be surprised how inspired you’ll feel after visiting Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It’s the most visited cemetery in the world, with celebrities like Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, and Jim Morrison laid to rest here. The ancient mausoleums, mossy tombstones, and stone paths lined by squawking black crows all give the place a spooky atmosphere.
- The Louvre: You’ve no doubt heard about it and seen it featured in plenty of movies—”Wonder Woman” being one of the most recent ones. It’s the biggest museum in the world, and home to 380,000 art pieces. This includes the iconic “Mona Lisa” and “Liberty Leading the People.” You can spend days exploring all the rooms, so give yourself plenty of time to explore.
- Stravinsky Fountain – This whimsical fountain blends old-world architecture with colorful modern art—both in the water and on murals around the area. This is a good spot to sit and enjoy some street cart food like crepes and naughty baguettes from Legay Choc. The fountain is also a central location. You’re within walking distance of Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame, and the Seine river.
These attractions are just a few of the many incredible things to see in the city.
What are some other tips you should know before visiting Paris?
- European outlets are different than American ones, so bring a travel adapter for your electronics.
- Parisians are well-known for their sense of style, and it’s wise to meet their standards. This doesn’t necessarily mean flashy fashion; Parisian style includes well-fitted coats and pants, quality boots and shoes, ironed shirts, and colorful scarves.
- Be aware of pickpockets. They’re common enough that even locals will remind you to be smart with what you’re keeping loose in your pockets. Keep an eye out for people who ask you to sign petitions, as this is often part of a pickpocketing scheme; someone can pick through your backpack while you’re distracted.
- Protests can get crazy, and it’s advisable to avoid them if they pop up. The city tends to be proud of its protest culture, but don’t get swept up in the possible chaos.The food is just as good as you’ve heard. If you’re visiting in winter, try the hot chocolate. The liquid is so thick, cafes give you a plastic spoon to help stir! The butter, cheese, and bread are just as unforgettable.
Have you ever been somewhere that felt like a dream? Paris is just like that. The grand buildings, the sweet chocolate, the bombastic artwork all make Paris the best city you’ve ever explored. Simply follow our tips and tricks and you’ll feel like a local in no time.
Header image: Via Catarina Belova/Shutterstock.com